A shot across the bow.


So. Sorry to be such a negative premodern amidst all you postmoderns, but here I go, being feisty and contrarian.

(Love me anyways!!!!!!!!!)

DISCLAIMER: I really appreciate the practical side of what is happening here, and all my quibblies here are to do with language useage. (Surprised?)

Things I like about newmonasticism.org:

1. Evangelical Mennonites are living together in community.
2. They are committed to a Christian way of life together.
3. They are committed to spiritual disciplines.
4. They are practicing chastity.
5. Etcetera.

My big problem:

They are calling it ‘monasticism’.

Why the hell don’t they just call it ‘being Christians like we were originally supposed to’?

I mean, if they are doing all of that, they are no different than, say, the people at the church I go to, except that these ‘neomonks’ all live in one big house.

AND…I found an article that said something I just absolutely despised.

The article is called ‘The New St. Benedict’ and it is by Ivan Kauffman.

First, let me say that I now despise the word ‘intentional’. It is used in this article like it really means something more than ‘purposeful’ as opposed to ‘by accident’ or ‘inadvertent’. BARF. What the heck separates an intentional community from any other community? All communities have aims, intentions, purposes, etc. ESPECIALLY CHRISTIAN COMMUNITIES…so really, Qohelet, what is New under the sun here? Not a darn thing.

Now here I go with my atrocious citations. Attend!

When the monastic movement was founded by St. Anthony and the other
Egyptian monks some 1,700 years ago it was assumed that to live a fully
intentional Christian life one needed to abandon the world of work and
family and politics.

A better explanation is that the desert fathers chose the desert simply because it was EASIER to pursue a life of prayer without the distractions of social, economic and political existence. There was simply more time and space in the desert.

The vocation of constant prayer and monasticism, however, is not a more ‘intentional Christian life’. Paul certainly did not see it this way, and it is doubtful that many of the fathers saw it this way. Otherwise, marriage would not have been treated as a sacrament (like Holy Communion and Baptism), but rather as a distraction! Certainly Chrysostom’s treatise, On Marriage and Family Life, sees marriage as a high calling and a means of sanctification.

Which is why the contrasts below really piss me off!

The early monastic communities played an important role in converting the
European peoples to Christianity, and the later monastic communities created
many of our most important institutions.

But the success of that earlier period of Christian intentionality has now laid
the foundations for a new era of Christian intentionality—one in which
intentional Christians take their place in the ordinary life of work, family and
politics, rather than withdrawing from it.

It is now possible for intentional Christians to view their participation in
economic activities as a way to serve the world, as a means to achieve their
central calling as Christians.

It is now possible for intentional Christians to view their sexuality as a means
to bring love into the world.

It is now possible for intentional Christians to see their mission as
transforming human society by becoming involved in its political activities.

Oh. Really? Now? As opposed to when?

As opposed to a time when all the Christians who were busy in the public sphere felt like second-class Christians for being there? And were affirmed in this self-hatred by their spiritual fathers? That might describe medieval Catholicism, but it doesn’t map onto early monasticism very well, and certainly not early Christianity which was by its very nature public religion.

Anyhow I am done for now. I will see you all on Wednesday night. And I’m going to have a very stiff drink beforehand. Maybe you should too. That makes shouting at each other much more fun!

8 comments

  1. chris · January 16, 2007

    woo hoo – nice rant. Way to “defrock” the word intentional!One of my biggest questions to be answered is : what was the motivation for monasticism in the first place? Was it motivated by desire to serve God’s Kingdom, escape the prevailing kingdom? or a more personal pilgrimage into the inner life of faith? Hindus and Buddhist were big into monasticism long before Christians, right? Would you call the early prophets monastic? My understanding was that most of the very early monasticism was more individual/hermit like – and the communal version came later (4th -5th century AD…?)Anyway, hopefully someone will come to the table Wed night with a little more history (and a little less stiff drink than Matthew) and clarify a bit of this background.

  2. ron · January 16, 2007

    Hey Matthew of course we love you, and I agree we do a great injustice to the reality of monasticism…when we talk of a ” neo-monasticism.” And in my last few posts on the subject I have tried to avoid using the word. But the word seems to have a stickiness to it…when we look at monasticism, and try and look at the rule, values and lifestyle and make it relevant to where were at today.Matthew you said, ” 1. Evangelical Mennonites are living together in community.2. They are committed to a Christian way of life together.3. They are committed to spiritual disciplines.4. They are practicing chastity.5. Etcetera.My big problem:They are calling it ‘monasticism’.Why the hell don’t they just call it ‘being Christians like we were originally supposed to’?I mean, if they are doing all of that, they are no different than, say, the people at the church I go to, except that these ‘neomonks’ all live in one big house.”I would say the reality is most people attending churches today are not in ” community.” Going to church on Sunday, and maybe a home group during the week does not make community…maybe a gathering, but not community.You seem to place monasticism at the pinnacle of the faith journey. Jesus never talked much about them, and he and his friends seemed to model something else.Maybe more a rhythm of life, than a rigid monastic lifestyle.Some of Benedictine oblates I’ve had the chance talk to seem to be a little more gracious in there conversation…as friends try and live life ( ok, I won’t say intentional ), but more faithfully.Is there something wrong with looking at Benedicine,Franciscan and Celtic monasticism…and adapting it to try and form communities that can live more faithfully. Although different, they all offer wisdom to be gleaned.It is obvious that every church going christian can’t live in a monastery…a cloistered life. But perhaps, there is an alternative that reveals glimpses of monastic life. There certainly has to be a ” christianity ” that is far more faithful and has more of an impact on the culture around us.I’m not looking to be come a monk in a monastery. But I’m struggling to work out how of ” love God with all my heart, soul, and strength: and to love my neighbour “, all in the context of a different type of community. If this sounds watered down…I’m sorry but, that’s where I’m at in my journey.We need monasteries, monks…but we also need an alternative…from the Sunday morning church gathering.I’m looking forward to Wednesday night…hopefully there won’t be to much shouting. Maybe we should just drink…in silence…and contemplate.

  3. Tangira · January 16, 2007

    You dang contrarian, fiesty Davidson !…I love you, you scruffy Cathechumen !… See ya on Wednesday… and if you’re going to have a stiff drink before you come, then make sure Mira is you’re ‘designated driver’. You can be a menace to us, but not on the roads…Maybe you should live up to your pre-modern aspirations and ride a mule.By the way, that was a good rant, and good points coming from both Chris and Ron.

  4. nehamashira · January 18, 2007

    Not that my comment counts for a hill of beans,,but I detect more angst in this tirade than is rationally called for. Who cares about semantics if the whole goal is to learn how to love people who may not agree with you? If shouting is what you want..does he who shouts the loudest ‘win’?

  5. chris · January 19, 2007

    oh, I’m afraid that on this blog shouting not only counts…there are points awarded for creativity and undertones of passion!

  6. nehamashira · January 19, 2007

    Guess I’d better get out the earplugs then…

  7. matthew christopher davidson · January 28, 2007

    I feel safe enough to shout on this blog, because I think people will receive me anyways, and because I think that, while angst is never ‘rationally called for’ but is always a mixture of internal and external factors, God has me in this community so that I can be a sinner who my friends will extend God’s forgiveness to as I process my crap.Am I wrong?

  8. nehamashira · January 29, 2007

    I envy the freedom that you have.

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